A War for Peace (Friend Post Friday #1)

I’m excited to introduce you to my cousin and very first Friend-Post-Friday author, Lee Waters.  Growing up mostly in New England, we only got to see extended family once a year; but Lee stands out as a thoughtful, peaceful soul in a sea of cousins, surrounded by big-laughing uncles, aunts (pronounced “Ants”) compulsively comparing cousin genetic similarities.

We’re all grown up now and just this past year I finally got to meet Lee’s amazing wife, Judy!  The two live in Georgia where Judy teaches and they both run Waters Art Studio.  Their photography and art reflect their travel, their style, and incredible creativity.  In fact, you can’t talk to them without being inspired to go create or restore something- it’s simply who they are.  I’m in awe of their work.

Lee was one of the first people I asked to share, after reading his vulnerable story.  I know this wasn’t something easy for him to share, but I know his deepest desire is that it reaches and liberates those of you who may feel a similar pain.  I’m so grateful that he shared, and hope you are moved or pass his words along to those who may need his message.


A War for Peace

A painful transparency for the sake of others

By Lee Waters

I am coming forward publicly for what I feel is necessary. This is not for myself but rather I offer what is hopefully some measure of help or service to others. Otherwise, giving such an account would certainly not be of personal interest. Life is far to short to sit on something that can be of value to others. I am tired of seeing others languish in silence, struggle for answers, or needlessly die.

For over a decade I’ve been struggling through life seemingly in every aspect. Approximately three years ago everything fell apart whether physically, spiritually, or mentally. Everything ceased to function. One day I found myself in the local Veteran’s Affairs clinic being treated for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). (PS. I’m not going to give my military history pertaining to this, so please don’t make inquiries of me or my family.)

After the service I never really adapted back home. I tried to do the “normal” things i.e. college, jobs, the old home town, old friends, relationships, church, etc. Everything was as I left it, but small…..way too small. Life was way to slow, unstructured, and certainly no level of comradery and deep friendships once known. Nothing attempted had meaning, I certainly did not fit in this old life anymore.

Later, I found myself in government contract work. Working in a post 9/11 Uncle Sam atmosphere brought back a semblance of OPTEMPO lifestyle and sense of danger depending on the day. In hind sight, I suppose I was covering up old wounds with anything that would make me feel alive or perhaps fast enough that I didn’t have to feel. But as contracts go, they came to an end. A few years later, when that state of existence ceased, so did I.

Thusly, revealing my war. Fighting an enemy I can’t see, on a battleground where there is not a lot of intel. One can call for support but command doesn’t know the exact plan of attack or understand all of the parameters.

No matter the war, engagement, or experience, somehow and bafflingly so, the malevolent effects are the same. “Different stories, same war” is a phrase often heard. To the unknowing and assuming eye all is well, yet underneath a 24/7 brawl for survival ensues.

What I discuss next as a veteran is hard to bring to light or explain. Hopefully, and the purpose of all this is not only for a fellow veteran, but also for those in close relationships with the effected and what life looks like. Disclaimer, I don’t have all the answers. I’m living minute by minute most days in this hell of a journey. This will be raw and ugly. So please save any judgement for some place elsewhere. Again, this is purely to offer what I have and if by some chance it’s a help, than this exercise in exposing what I really don’t want to will be worth it.

When one has pulled themselves up by the bootstraps from trauma to trauma, event from event, next thing to the next, something has to give. Equate it to an engine. If one never places oil in the reservoir, eventually the engine will seize. Thusly, a costly chain of events will occur in the car. Sounds simple! Just take the time to add oil! Well, somehow it’s much much more complicated than that.

Getting counseling, prescribed medications, treatments, all have a valuable place and are necessary. Yet there is more that is needed. A quick “end all” healing solution, or the expectations of such to help with the torment eludes many. Ergo, many self medicate with drugs, alcohol, vices, and even suicide to end the incessant agony. On the other end of the spectrum, activities that are dangerous are attempts to feel again. For instance, a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado I feel at peace in. I’m apt to go as close to or experience the fury and as a photographer I want to capture it. Maybe I want to bottle it up that way and save it for later. Now I know that those events cause pain and uncontrollable damage. Believe me when I say I care deep down. Yet the onset of lightning, thunder, or whiteout blizzard conditions elicit a sense of feeling and belonging. The wilder the better. I can rest there. It’s the quiet that is deafening to me. I am hyper vigilant again. I often dread sleep yet I know that I need it desperately. I don’t want to go through another nightmare, wind up in a pool of sweat, or wake up screaming with my chest about to explode.

Day to day life tends to be very calculated. Places like Walmart, crowded places, large church settings are a no go. Too many people, too much vigilance, subconsciously scanning for threats or running scenarios, all of which are sensory overload on a good day. Restaurants and coffee shops i can somewhat ease in to so long as my back is not turned to the crowd. Not being situationally aware at all times is not an option.

So back to the car analogy and someone says “just add oil!” Or in these cases “you don’t have to be this way now! You’re home! You can stop it if you choose to!” First of all please never say that to someone going through this! You can rest assure that if it were that easy it would be done by now. The mind knows the right answers yet the rest of the being won’t follow through. What lies deeper is a whole other story.

Jumpiness, irritability, reclusiveness, depression, exhaustion, feeling misunderstood, feeling like a cancer to anyone especially family, embarrassment, numbness, an all or nothing attitude, everything black and white, are just some of the things I battle. Again, putting these things on paper in a clear moment is one thing, but when it’s time to take care in these areas is a whole other ball of wax. Day to day is Russian roulette.

So why am I being so painfully honest about all of this? Somehow knowing the things that are part of the territory with PTSD is a relief. Especially to loved ones. My wife and family have made lots of allowances and adjustments to be there for me. And I’m sure more than I realize. It breaks my heart that they have to. I lament that reality. Yet, I am ever so great full for them. Especially my wife Judy. Many are not blessed with a family support unit like this and I don’t take it for granted. Those who don’t travel the treacherous road alone.

Now for a brief moment of levity and truth all in one. Fellas, find you a tough Irish gal. You will have found your pot of gold with her. But seriously, I owe much to my bride and I do not take it lightly.

To wit, I am publicly taking the moment to tell my family and most of all my wife Judy, thank you. I love you more than words can express.

I went to a songwriting retreat back in 2014. Nashville songwriters came to Chattanooga to help veterans put memories, stories, etc. on paper and watch them get turned into music. I will discuss that program later, I want to make a point here. A few months after the retreat, we had a reunion gathering for the veterans involved in the program. This time Judy got to meet the people I was involved with. When Judy saw the common visage on the faces of the veterans and respective family members things became tangible for her. Seeing the tiredness, the fight, the love, support, survival, and a signature look in the eyes of a vet no matter the age or whatever they were involved in, made sense and brought relief. She was not the only one going through this story as a spouse. She was not alone.

I’m going to wrap this up with a summation and reiterate what I’m attempting to say. I don’t have the answers to this. What I am offering some information on some of what veterans with PTSD and families who care for them encounter. And maybe you’re reading this and have questions about your struggles or someone else’s struggles. Please go for help. Media and culture have created a stigma in which anyone with PTSD is a mark of weakness. Rather I submit to you as encouragement, if you’re fighting with this, I say you’re stronger than most. You are fighting and surviving an enemy that would force many to yield. I’m in the throws of my battle. Trying to build a business, and seemingly living in the VA. I’m learning. So is my family. Pray for us. Pray for the veterans. 22 veterans losing the battle everyday is a disturbing number that doesn’t seem to change. Some of us are home but can’t come home on the inside. By God’s grace someday. Offer support, not judgement of what you think you understand. That can be damaging at best. Please don’t pepper someone with questions. Just be there.. don’t avoid even if you don’t understand. Remember the veterans have been and always will be sheep dogs. Always watching out for you.

Thank you for your time in reading this. It means a lot if you did. God bless my country and the men and women who have and are donning the nation’s uniform.

Ps. As aforementioned, I spoke of the program I was involved with. It is called Operation Song Chattanooga. Nashville songwriters Steve Dean and Don Goodman come down every week and help veterans write music as therapy. Do you know the song “Ol Red” sung by Blake Shelton or “Angels Among Us” sung by Alabama? That’s Don. Or one of the most played songs on country radio “Watching You” sung by Rodney Atkins? That’s Steve. These folks care deeply and get not one penny in this 501C3. I am honored to be a part of the program and now work along side them. I have written a song with Steve and Don for my wife who loves me and stays by my side. It’s about how much I love her. “I thank God that you love me.” Once the songs are written, professional cuts of the songs are put on an album and given to the veterans.

If you know someone in the Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, or Nashville areas that can benefit from a program like this, please contact us. Check out Operation Song Chattanooga on Facebook. Follow them and pass the word along. It’s powerful therapy in a family atmosphere. Check it out please.

(Post written by Lee Waters)

 

The Inconsistencies of My Heart

If you’re feeling discouraged, left out or abandoned by God, unheard or unnoticed, this post is for you.  It’s one of my journal entries from this month, and I wrote it as though God were speaking it to me…I believe He impressed it on my heart and I hope it lifts you up and challenged you as well.


“I AM unchanging- unfailing- my thoughts beyond tracing out.  You sit in your unanswered prayer- your diabetes- and ask if I hear you, wonder if I care, doubt my love.  Yet I’ve told you that my love and your pain are not mutually exclusive- I AM here IN your pain, through the fire, near in your broken-hearted moments, seasons, journeys.  For your own peace I promised you truthfully that you’d find trouble here, but my presence in unending measure.  For those who wait.  Remain in my love.  Seek me first.  Acknowledge me.  Love me with your heart, soul and mind.

You accuse me of inconsistency- but I’ve never promised you safety and ease- your claims about my inconsistency reveal the truth of YOUR heart, not mine.

My Child- let me ask you this: When you come to Me in song- when you tell Me ‘nothing you desire compares with Me’… that I’m ‘all you need’… that you’re ‘desperate for Me’– why do you cry out the next moment in despair over your circumstances?  Have you ever asked yourself about your inconsistencies? How your words before me are fickle?

Dear one, am I enough for you, no matter what?  Do you desire me more than being fixed right now?  Do you trust that my love really does have your best at heart?

I know it will take time for you to be stripped of your fear and doubts and struggles.  You are human, after all.  And while you’re wrestling, know that I AM here, all love, waiting…pursuing you.  Though you doubt, remember that I died for you and there’s not greater love I could show you than that.

Can you trust that love right where you are today?”


What are you struggling with today?  Do you have prayers that remain unanswered?  I know it’s hard to share our most vulnerable hurts, but feel free to vent in this space.  And if you’ve found that whisper of God’s hope and love in the midst of your pain, I’d love it if you’d post what God has spoken to your heart!  May we continue to encourage one-another. 

Jazz Flute Freedom

Agawam, MA, circa 1997- the monumental moment when I chose to play flute in the middle school band.  My teacher seemed to think I was a natural, and my parents splurged to purchase that elegant silvery beauty.

“Blow into the flute like you’re trying to spit rice.”  (A fine analogy, for those who are accustomed to rice spitting.  Is this some kind of carnival game most people are familiar with?)

But I played well, in all my fifth grade zeal, when I actually took the time to practice.  Here’s a roughly fifth grade picture to bring you into better focus.

And then came the announcement that jazz band would be starting up…but it turns out flutists weren’t invited.  If you played any brass instrument, or maybe a sax or trombone- you were good to go.  But a flute…well…that simply wasn’t jazz material.

My memory is fuzzy, but I must have vented my disappointment to my classroom teacher.  He was one of my favorites- a balding red-headed Jewish man who spent Friday afternoons pulling out his guitar and singing us songs like “One Tin Soldier” and “Why Must I be a Teenager in Love”.  One day he pulled me aside, oozing optimism, to tell me the name of a popular jazz flutist- I think he even wrote it down for me.  What was his point?  “Just because there’s not a spot for you as a ‘jazz flutist’ in the fifth grade band, doesn’t mean you can’t be one.”  (Of course this was long before I watched the ultimate Jazz Flutist, Ron Burgundy. 😉 )

Jazz is a music defined not by instrument but by soul- flute or trumpet…doesn’t matter…what you breathe into that instrument makes all the difference.

I’ve been thinking more and more about women’s equality- something I grew up thinking we had all but achieved.  I’m realizing there’s a vast chasm between where we are and true equality, and unfortunately the Church has helped perpetuate that chasm.  I should clarify..I’m not oppressed in my church- far from it- in fact it is here in my church that I’m finally learning to become freer.  But I believe there’s more.

Here’s what I’m beginning to see: gender equality isn’t merely about equal rights or opportunities for women.  No.  It’s a journey to remember Eden and restore the value of a women alongside of men.  It’s a desire to understand how men (God’s creation/instrument) and women (also God’s creation/instrument) were made to work together in harmony.  It’s a quest to know that the Spirit or breath of God in me, in this instrument, is no different from the Spirit or breath of God in a masculine instrument.  It’s the BREATH that matters.

It’s the growing belief that embracing my full identity as a co-heir with Christ is not selfish- it’s not simply about my liberation, but the freedom of many.  For as I rise- free- I no longer limit the call, the influence, the plan that God may have for me.  None of us can know the awesome scope of adventure God has for us if we’re limiting ourselves based on human traditions and values.  (Or the fifth grade band teacher, as it were.)

As each of us, men and women alike, are freed from restraints of brokenness and human tradition, we rise free to liberate others.  People say that “hurt people, hurt people” but as Christina Cleveland said once, “Free people, free people.”  Liberated people, liberate people.  You can’t walk in the full liberation of the cross of Christ without impacting those around you.

And that liberation is abundant.

You are as free as God says you are- and if Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death, from the curse of the Garden, then you are free indeed.  Walk boldly in your freedom because your influence is not determined by a title, by what other “creations” define for you, but by your identity in God and the good works He’s prepared in advance for you.

What do you need to be freed from to walk forward boldly into what God may be calling you to?  Invite God to simply breathe into you as His instrument and create the soulful notes that only He can.  Then ask yourself, “As I walk free, who am I meant to liberate?”


Further reading:

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

John 8:36: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Romans 8:1-2: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.

Hebrews 2:10-11: In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’

(New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)

 

 

Parenting SOS!

“Honey, put down the markers, we don’t color on ourselves…or the wall..or the floor…just paper.  PAPER!!  Is that so difficult a concept?”

“If your sister says stop, then STOP!”

“When we get in the car, we sit down and we buckle up.  I shouldn’t have to say that every time we go somewhere.”

“That’s not a sword, and we don’t hit people.” 

“You’re too old to run around the house naked.”

“If you don’t listen, I’ll throw away your toy.  I don’t even care.”

“I don’t actually like to yell, so if you don’t want me to why don’t you listen?”

“I know I said you couldn’t watch TV [Dear God, what was I thinking?]but you could mayyyybe earn it back if you would please just follow directions now.”

“Don’t lick that!”

“I’m sorry that your leg hurts; but it didn’t seem to bother you before I asked you to clean up.”

“If you don’t listen, there will be a consequence…I don’t even know what it is yet, but you won’t like it.”

“No, you can’t have candy for breakfast.  Eat what I gave you because that’s what we’re eating.”

“If I’m in the bathroom, don’t open the door!”

“Don’t worry about what your brother is doing, worry about what I asked YOU to do!”

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

I used to have this idea in my head that parenting is more about being with my kids and loving them than disciplining them.  But somehow that’s not how it’s going for me.  Honestly, from the minute my kids wake up I feel like most of what I’m doing is giving them directives: “Get UP, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Pack your library book in your backpack!”  When I’m not telling them what to do I’m telling them what not to do, as the list above reveals.

Occasionally, my child will speak soft, kind words, or try to tell me their whimsical thoughts.  And even THEN half the time I can’t even focus on that sweet moment because one of the other two is acting out.

Is this what parenting is?  Am I missing something?

I’m starting feel right now, especially with my middle child that I’m just in a never-ending battle.  Maybe I’m trying to get him to leave a friends house and JUST want him to put his shoes and coat on.  I like to think it’s a fair request in New England winter.  Yet we drag on back and forth, me taking away treats or fun things; he pushing back with angry words and stubbornness.

By the time we get home there’s something new to argue about, assuming we even made it the whole car-ride home without a clash.

And tonight, I’m sitting there praying with the big kids at bedtime after a whole bedtime saga, and he just says “stop praying, stop praying, stop praying” and I ended up downstairs after just crying because I feel like I’m failing at this.  Failing with him.  Like I must have been inconsistent or faulty in something when the kid was 18 months old and we simply can’t recover.

Maybe I let him have one too many muffins one day instead of firmly saying “no”, or maybe I yelled a bit too loud once and his little brain decided that he’d start fighting anger with his own.  I joke… but really…do you ever wonder if you have been parenting all wrong and you just don’t know how to get back on track?  I don’t even need to be on the track…just maybe parallel to it.

I don’t want to be the mom who spends the whole day saying no.  I don’t want to be the mom whose kids require twenty reminders to do one thing.  I want to give my kids fun things, good things. I want to be a light-hearted Mom who creates a home of peace.  But I’m not sure I’m that mom right now.

How do we let God hold our kids, yet seek Him to strengthen our own for the task He gave us as parents?  How do we encourage our kids to obey without nagging, to listen because we love them- how do we motivate them with less punishment, less anger?  Or maybe, how do we learn to admit that even with our mistakes, we’re really loving them better than we think?

I’m putting this out to you Moms- Dads- Grandparents- Aunts- Friends- What advice would you give to me and other struggling parents who think they might be losing it somewhere?  How can we discipline as needed without creating a negative atmosphere in the home?  Comment, post, text me if you must.  🙂  This mom is ready to listen.

What We Find in “Losing It”

This morning I had an appointment scheduled with a nurse at my new Endocrinologist office.  Trust me, I’d thought through the day- I was going to knock out three birds with one stone, stopping first at my doctor for 10am, then picking up my contacts while I was out, in time to mosey along to my three year old’s speech language appointment at 12:30.  No matter that I had an extra kid home sick today…I so had the day covered.

I stuck my oldest on the bus, packed up the boys and drove to my Southington appointment.  Except when I got to the office there was a sign on the door that said they were closed on Thursdays. Weird.  “Well, maybe just the doctor is out, but they have a nurse here…”   So I asked the lady at the opposite reception area…you know…just in case. 

(As I type this my rational self is shaking her head- “Seriously? The sign says “CLOSED” and you’re going to plow right ahead and confuse the poor receptionist there instead of admitting you made a mistake?)

She basically reiterated what the sign said- and to just heap some extra shame on myself, I asked her what phone number to call to sort this out with my doctor only to find out that (you probably guessed it) the contact number was ALSO on the sign.

So I called the number and apparently I was supposed to go to the New Britain office.  Oh.  The lady seemed as perplexed as I was: “I booked that appointment with you…why would you go to the Southington office?”  

  1. Maybe because I have three children and only 2 functioning brain cells.
  2. Maybe because this is the only office I’ve been to so I just assumed despite your phone reminder.
  3. Maybe because OH! there’s a Starbucks over there…
  4. Or maybe I because I just screwed up.  

I resented her question, but she quickly realized that I was flustered and kindly assured me I could call back and figure out a new appointment soon.  So I dragged the kids downstairs, determined to salvage the trip by at least using the bathroom, but found that it was being cleaned.

Back to the van! I looked up directions pick up my contacts anyhow.  Just to be safe, I checked their office hours.  BLERG! – turned out the eye place was closed on Thursdays.  Sensing a disappointing pattern here, but still determined to be productive in the 2 hours till my son’s appointment, I decided to find a place to have the oil in my van changed and also use the bathroom. (This is absolutely rational-people logic.)

So I found an oil place- full service- very nice people.  The guy told me all their names and said, “If you need anything you can just say, ‘Hey Valvoline Guy!'”  Great.  Valvoline Guy.  I can remember that.  One problem…it was some express change so you stay in your car the whole time while they work.  This was fun for my boys but now I was seriously second-guessing my brilliant decision to over-hydrate.  

In the end, the oil was changed, the kids got a fun meal, my bladder survived, and we made it to the speech appointment no problem.  Not the worst day of my life.

But this wasn’t the first time this week I’d made a massive mistake.  Saturday I was beyond excited to drive up to Danbury CT to hear a Noble Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, speak at PeaceJam (a gathering of mostly youth and college students).  She’s absolutely amazing, uniting Christians and Muslims and helping end a civil war in Liberia.  Well, an hour or so, a parking garage and some trying to get directions later…I realized that the lecture had already happened the night before.  I missed it entirely.  I was devastated and was ready to hop back in the car and cry my hour drive back home, but I ended up texting a friend who was helping with the Jam.  She told me they were in the gym doing some cool dance and open mic stuff and I should totally join.

Ah yes.  The college campus gym. Directions?  So I awkwardly followed some girls and walked completely out of my element into this gym full of students, where my friend was leading a group in a dance to Bob Marley’s “One Love”.

Next thing I knew I was reliving a former Zumba nightmare trying to follow along to an African Dance.  (How come college kids have so much energy and so little social inhibition?)

 

And perhaps around this time I started asking God, “Hey there…what’s going on?  If I missed this awesome lecture and drove over an hour, I assume there’s something I’m supposed to get out of this detour.

(Order the book via email at: amezetovic@winooski.k12.vt.us)

Well, this was one reminder that God sometimes works in our detours and even our ineptitude to accomplish His own plans.  I ended up meeting a Bosnian woman who had come to America 20 years earlier as a refugee.  She has since written a book of poetry about her experience, and currently works at a school teaching ESL to a student body that is 40% refugees.

I plan to connect with her more in the future and hopefully understand a bit more about refugees and how to help.

Though we often feel foolish or frustrated when plans fall through, when we go to the wrong place or at the wrong time, there’s always something happening.  Maybe it’s just a perspective we need- a letting go once again of our control, learning to appreciate what’s in front of us anyway.  Or maybe God is orchestrating something in our detours that we never would have known to “plan” to begin with.

 

 

 

Inside Chronic

Chronic.  If you’ve ever been diagnosed with something “chronic”…ongoing, possibly worsening over time…it changes you.  The simple fact of living with something that will not go away UNTIL death- that’s hard to embrace.  Puts a different spin on life.  Though oddly, in embracing my chronic I’ve embraced my mortality and that demands I live a bit more focused, more grounded in seeking something that will outlast this broken body.

It leaves me dreaming a bit more about heaven- about a time when there won’t be tubes or equipment tethered to me- freedom.

Chronic is just so daily though.  And as a result, if you have something chronic, chances are you get tired of telling people that you’re overwhelmed.  You might tell people you’re having a “bad day”, an “off season”…but sometimes it has just been a bad long many years.  Not all bad.  But a stress and a strain that wears you thin and you don’t know how to tell people because it underscores all of life, not just bits and pieces.  And you’d like to be able to tell people that everything you complained about last week “got better”….but unlike a cold or a teething kid, chronic doesn’t hold hope of going away.

And then there’s the fear- fear when things get worse, fear when you feel out of control of things in your body that others take for granted.

And guilt…because whatever is affecting you most affects those closest to you.  My all too frequent high numbers make it difficult to parent well at times- it adds to irritability, to stress, like a static chaos frequency running constantly in the back of your head.  And as much as I own that I have plenty of faults as a wife and parent as it is, sometimes I give in to the overwhelmed feeling and my family absorbs that.  And I hate feeling like “Mom’s chronic” is all going to come out in a therapy session when they’re older.  (Along with some vague memory of me yelling directions from inside the bathroom.  But for the love, can your question wait 3 minutes?)

And God…well…chronic will put Him to the test too.  Because there’s an awful lot of verses that sound pretty rosy until God isn’t changing your circumstances.  Chronic has brought me to wrestle with God more than anything else and it forces me to confront whether my God IS good, whether He is big enough, whether He loves me.  Whether He really has a plan for my good.  Maybe we don’t get to the bottom of those questions without some pain and suffering.  Somedays I know, even in the rain, that God is beyond good, beyond any love I know…and other days…like today…I just want to give up and ask why He seems to have left me alone.  Those days I find myself feeling too drained to trust, and I give God a bit of a defiant “Your move” look.

And I like to be strong; I want to be someone that others can go to for support. Yet I assume we all hit those moments where we just want to hide and hope someone will find us and pull us out.  And I’m so grateful for those friends in my life, even if it doesn’t fix it for good.

So where to land- maybe you’re in chronic land too… maybe you have type 1 diabetes like me…or maybe it’s depression or PTSD, Crohn’s, MS, Celiac or so many others.  I just want to let you know I’m here, and I’m not always OK and if you ever need to swap some venting, I’m game.

 

 

The Cost of Equality

There’s a question burning in my heart that I need to ask you…that I need to ask myself.  My little CT town is reeling, and rightly so, from a new budget proposal by our own Governor Malloy.  At first I was caught off guard by the budget’s drastic decrease in funds to our town’s public school- an alleged $1.63 million decrease, to be exact.  (Not to mention another $1.5 million that our town would have to come up with for teacher pensions.)  It didn’t sit well with me…I mean, it certainly seemed like something to be enraged about.

But I read in my local paper a mere one-sentence blip, as though an irrelevant factual concession, which informed me that there was a piece to the story I was missing; part of the reason for the proposed reduction for our budget is to increase the spending for underfunded schools where the greatest poverty exists.

And I’ll be honest, that stung me.  Because I desperately want to live in an America where there’s not an educational disparity between two neighboring towns because of income level.  I desperately want to live in an America where I would gladly enroll my kids in any school, in any town.

But I don’t.  I live in an America where my kids have chromebooks and amazing teachers and resources, but other students less than a half hour drive from me are lacking.  (Do I even care to know the conditions of “their” education?)  I live in an America where poverty in certain places is systemic and suffocating and dictates the kind of education a child can hope to receive.

And there’s the phrase going around “There’s no such thing as other people’s children.”  We’re all in this together, right?  But what does it mean to embrace that idea as more than mere theory?

So I simply have to ask…as we lament possible budget cuts to our own kids, where is our lament for our neighbor’s kids who would only dream of the resources we possess?  Where is our joy for “our kids” in other towns who could perhaps enjoy new success?  Is equality something we can seek without sacrifice?  How far are we willing to go to see “liberty and justice for all”?

Because I guarantee you this:  Equality will not come without cost.  And the cost of equality, though we don’t want to see it, will be greatest for those who have “more than”.  Though individuals who’ve been dealt “less” have certainly overcome their poverty, equality will never come if we sit around hoping the masses of under-resourced will miraculously leap over the hurdles of cyclical poverty and broken systems, to arrive level with the advantages many of us have enjoyed without realizing.

I’ve had my share of “more than”- of privilege, wealth, freedom…the chance to dream.  And I’m learning lately that I’m hugely complicit in this larger issue of inequality because, quite frankly, I’d rather not be uncomfortable.  I’d rather not give up what I have.

But, God help me, I need to change.  I need to be willing to bleed, to encounter rough places, to accept less in order to see others rise.  In order to see our nation, our states, our neighborhoods…made one.

I realize the issue is much larger than dollars- I understand that the budget cut could mean job loss, lesser education, and a giant step backwards for PTO and others who have worked tirelessly to raise funds for our schools.  I thank those of you who have given so much of your lives to improve and support our schools and our children.  I don’t want to minimize the potential hardship to our town.  And I’m sure this budget proposal is hardly the end-all answer to leveling the educational playing field and squashing rampant poverty.  Maybe it’s not a great answer period.

But it certainly makes for a good mirror to turn at ourselves.

I’m trying to educate myself on the social justice issues that plague our world, but I admit my own limitations of knowledge and awareness.  In fact, I’m so aware of my faults that I feel the hypocrite even as I pose these questions.  But as much for myself as for you…and our nation…I have to start the dialogue.  The answers aren’t simple, but I welcome your thoughts as I try to process my own growing uneasiness of heart over the disparity between what I say I believe and the way that I live.

Suggested Reading:

Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School The inequality at the heart of America’s education system

The Week My Compassion Broke

You know those blog posts that start with a problem and end with a cute little moral, a “you-can-do-it” pep talk, or at least an inspirational quote with a gorgeous panoramic picture?

I know you’re starting to feel a little warm and fuzzy at the thought, so I’m going to go ahead and snap you out of it and dump ice water on that thought.  Yeah, this isn’t that post.

This is the post where I tell you how the stomach bug attacked my six year old, while he was at a birthday party by the way, and then proceeded to take the rest of us out one by one like an invisible, icky sniper.  You know how this goes…the cleaning of things you haven’t cleaned since…well…the last stomach bug, come to think of it.  The indefinite holding of the breath hoping no one else will get sick. The way you simultaneously feel deeply sad for your pitiful child, but also think, “How could you do this to me??!!”

The sick feeling you get when you’re not actually sick but your mind thinks you are.

And then the actual being sick when you start bartering with God, asking yourself where you went wrong in life and why you never appreciated normal digestion.

So we finally got past all that in just under a week and had a deceptively blissful couple days of reprieve.  Then Monday two out of 3 kids woke up with ear pain that ended in infections for both.  (Side note: Minute clinic offices are really not big enough for two upset sick kids and a three year old that rivals the energizer bunny.)

So here I am today…and I told my husband my compassion is broken.  They broke it.  Not their fault.  No.  But sickness is like a megaphone that takes alllllll the whining and the tantrums and the baseline drama and amplifies it a gazillion times.  (That is a highly accurate statistic.)  If my sympathy is like a tube of toothpaste, we are down to that last little bit that you can only access through complicated origami folds.

My son asked to play a game today and I flat out told him that I simply didn’t want to.  Sorry.  Not happening today on broken compassion day.  And when those sweet sick little kids tried to get out of bed last night or complain about one more malady, I walked them briskly back to bed while attempting to defend my right to personal free time.

Not only is my compassion broken, between kids out of school and sheer delirium, I can barely remember what day it is.  I keep drawing confusing lines on my calendar where I put the right event in the wrong square.   My son’s birthday is today and I forgot to buy the poor kid a gift.  And based on the straggling few forks in my silverware drawer, I’d say I’m massively overdue to clean dishes.

So how do you play into all this?  Well….  I think you know exactly how I feel because I believe at least 72% of you have just gone through the same thing.  So I promise…I won’t try to cheer you up….I won’t try to pat you on the back and tell you it will get better…I’ve lost my compassion, remember?  But go ahead and share your worst sick stories with the rest of us…maybe we’ll all feel a little better after all.

 

 

(Hope in) Wearing my Disease

 

I don’t usually ask for jewelry.  My mother-in-law seems to know exactly what necklaces to buy me, and my mom lends me jewelry indefinitely forever, so I have a cute little collection going.  But it’s not something I want to spend a lot of money on.

But this Christmas, I asked my husband for a bracelet.  It’s beautiful- a perfect dose of classy with a hint of sparkle to pop.  (Fun fact: I do not shave my arms.)

But I don’t want this bracelet that I asked for.  Not really.  I should have bought a bracelet like this years ago- 7 years ago, to be exact.  But like I said…it’s not a bracelet I wanted.

The truth is, it’s really just a glorified medical ID tag.

And underneath all the pretty- the class and sparkle- is an inscription that labels me: “Carrye…type-1 diabetic”.  No, I never wanted the bracelet, because I never wanted the disease.  And if there are stages of acceptance, of grief over something, I’m not there yet.  I don’t like feeling

vulnerable.

medicine-dependent.

afraid of exercise.

isolated as a medical minority.

anxious.

like a financial liability.

left with no cure.

There are so many worse diseases, so many worse problems, and trust me I’m grateful for every last medical achievement that makes my life so that you wouldn’t know to look at me that my life is anything but normal.  In many ways, my life is thriving and so absolutely beautiful.

But I have this bracelet, see.  And without a miracle or a cure it’s one I’ll wear for life.

And yet…I can let this disease own me or maybe I can own my disease.  Maybe in wearing my disease out loud, I can choose to see the power in even this broken part of me.  This isn’t who I am, but it is shaping who I am…and as a good friend told me once, God is using this disease to strip me of even the fear that seems like a side-effect of diabetes.

Maybe there’s something being forged stronger in us through our trials than we’d ever know without them.

The storm demands my God be bigger.

I’m letting go of my pretend control.

I’m fighting to know His peace verses the world’s.

I’m weighing the fleetingness of my life.

I’m slowly feeling bolder, braver.  Baby steps.

I’m being pushed into a journey to test and know if Jesus really is enough.

So maybe this is Hope.

And wouldn’t you know.  That came with the bracelet too.  It’s not what I wanted to wear.  But maybe it’s producing in me what I wanted to be all along.

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P.S. I’m thankful to my cousin for sharing this medical I.D. bracelet site with me.  If you have a chronic condition, check out the beautiful designs at  Lauren’s Hope. If you have to wear something every day, it may as well be something you like.  

 

 

My Address to Trump

Dear President Trump,

I won’t attack all the things…there’s no point in that.  I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say we need to seek solidarity.  Little good can come when we’re divided, humanly angry, and stirring up more anger with harsh words.

But on that note- solidarity- there’s one thing I want to address from your address.  You say, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” [Emphasis Mine]

You quote Psalm 133:1…but there’s a quote you may have missed on solidarity:

Philippians 2:2-4 says, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Mr. President, solidarity comes not through putting our own needs first; rather it comes through humility, valuing others before ourselves.  And perhaps you’ll argue that you’re not suggesting that we put our own needs first, just the needs of our NATION first.

But I would have to respectfully disagree…Luke 10:27 says “Love your neighbor as yourself” and once you start putting limits on whom exactly is our neighbor…whew, that’s very slippery slope.

We live in a globally connected world; more than ever my neighbor is not just the person living next door to me; it is both the person here in the U.S. who is struggling in poverty AND the foreigner- the refugee- the AIDS plagued- the trafficked- the oppressed.  And once you start shrinking the circle of “who is my neighbor”, you create a precarious house of cards whose foundation appears altruistic, but in reality is based on the god of ME.

Bottom line- love and solidarity is not birthed by deciding whom to exclude- by championing nationalism at the expense of global humanity.  That line of thinking moves quickly from “support my nation” to “support my race” or “support middle class” to “support my town” to “support my family” to “support me, me, me.”

And honestly, what seems best for me is rarely best for the whole.  And what seems best for me might just be the worst thing for me in the long run.

So please know that we are watching, and we are waiting.  And while I’m not entirely sure what my role here is yet, trust me when I say that I’m praying to be ready to stand on the side of justice, whether it’s here on US soil or not.  That’s where unity waits.

Sincerely,

Carrye Burr

 

Matthew 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

(New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)